Saturday, August 13, 2022

WHORE (1991) (Imprint Films Blu-ray Review)

WHORE (1991)

Label: Imprint Films 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 85 Minutes 
Audio: Uncompressed English LPCM 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Ken Russell
Cast: Theresa Russell, Benjamin Mouton, Elizabeth Morehead, Antonio Fargas, Jack Nance, Elizabeth Morehead, John Diehl, Danny Trejo, Ken Russell, Ginger Lynn Allen

Ken Russell's controversial Whore (1991) is based on a the stage play/monologue Bondage, which was written by a London a taxi driver named David Hines based on his conversations with a London hooker. The filmic adaptation, penned by Ken Russell (Lair of the White Worm) and screenplay Deborah Dalton, modernizes the setting and moves the locale to then contemporary early 90's where down-n-out prostitute named Liz (Theresa Russell, Straight Time) whom we catch up with as she attempts to evade her violent, controlling pimp Blake (Benjamin Mouton, Flatliners). 

The seedy film has a certain docu-drama feel about it with Liz regularly breaking the fourth wall Ferris Bueller's Day Off-style as she strolls the streets describing the life of a prostitute, how she came to be a streetwalker with wild stories about turning tricks and what to avoid while hustling. The breaking of the fourth wall was slightly off-putting the first time I saw it but I've since come to embrace that offbeat aspect of it, and Theresa Russell is quite charming in her matter-of-fact streetwise attitude. 

The jaded L.A. prostitute also narrates flashbacks of past events, these include the story of her failed marriage to a drunken, philandering, wife-beater named Charlie, how she went from a greasy spoon waitress to sex for cash, and regaling us with a few humorous encounters with various tricks that had weird kinks that don't involve the old in-out in-out, like an old man in a rest home who likes to be beat with a cane, and a client with some deep-seated mommy issues compounded by a high-heel fetish; and less fun stuff like being gang-raped, beaten, and left for dead after hopping into a van full of teenagers (big mistake), and fucking an old guy to death in his convertible. 

We also experience weird encounters with a strangely menacing hippie (Tom Villard, Popcorn) who roles up in a VW Beetle, another smiley creep looking for anal (who gets credit for my favorite quote in the film, "I would if I could, Biiiitch!", after being told to fuck himself in the ass), and Liz attempting to stop a streetwalker from bleeding to death after she's stabbed on the street (former porn queen Ginger Lynn Allen, The Devil's Rejects). There's also some terrific cameos by way of late Jack Nance (Eraserhead) sort of revisiting his character from Twin peaks when he find's Liz nearly beaten to death, Danny Trejo (3 From Hell) as a tattoo artist, John Diehl (The Dark Side of the Moon) as a pukey derelict, and Antonio Fargas (Cleopatra Jones) as a Rasta street-urchin whom Liz continually encounters on her street walking adventures. 

Whore at first blush seems a bit straight to be a Ken Russell film but it does have the occasional surrealistic touches and moments of cinematic brilliance that remind you who's at the helm, but it does feel low-budget, which I guess suits the seedy documentarian feel of it. It's a gritty but still black humored portrait of the lifestyle, the prostitution and sex-acts are never made to be titillating or glamorous, unlike Hollywood's whore-fable Pretty Woman that arrived a few years earlier. In a way it's a sort of response to that film in how opposite it feels - there's no rich prince charming here come to save the day, but if you're lucky a kind-hearted nutter on the street might slit your pimp's throat. Tagged as it is with an NC-17 rating you might expect some hitting sex stuff, but it's not hardcore, it's not even softcore, though there is plenty of topless nudity, and it's top-heavy with frank language about sex and sexual situations. In the early 90's we just weren't ready for a sex worker to be talking directly to the audience about how she would be quite happy to never see a dick again, how she won't do golden showers, the way guys don't want to wear condoms and are totally willing to risk spreading HIV to their wives, how some men fuck like they're getting revenge for some past aggression, and scenes of Liz looking quite bored while jerking a guy off under the table or bent over in the backseat of a convertible. 

Apparently there are three known cuts of the film, there was the original full-strength cut, an R-rated cut, and the NC-17 version, and what we get on disc here is the NC-17 cut which is reportedly trimmed by a few seconds compared to the original version, this is what I gather from reading about it as I've never seen it, but the uncut version has seemingly only ever been released on VHS and has never had a proper disc release. 


Audio/Video: The NC-17 version of Whore (1992) makes it's HD debut on region-free Blu-ray in 1080p HD widescreen (1.85:1), looking like an older HD master lacking the refinement, punchier details and tighter visuals a newer scan could offer, but is still quite pleasing with accurate looking colors and modest depth and clarity. The fine grain levels look consistent and fine detail is fairly strong throughout. Audio comes by way of uncompressed English LPCM 2.0 stereo with optional English subtitles, the dialogue driven film sounds quite nice, as does the score from composer Michael Gibbs (Madame Sin), and there are no issues with hiss or distortion that I ascertained during my viewing. 

We get a great set of bonus junk, starting off with an Audio Commentary by film critics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas & Josh Nelson who get into the heady themes of feminism and pornography, violence against sex workers, the way the film breaks the fourth wall, and much more. The new interviews start off with the 13-min Artist – Interview with actress Theresa Russell, it's a wonderfully candid conversation as she talks about hear early career, avoiding the usual drugs, sex, and sleazy producer pitfalls, and her experiences making the film with Russell - who she says liked to drink quite a bit on-set. She also talks a about her former husband director Nic Roeg (Walkabout) who she was married to at the time of filming, and who was a contemporary of Russell's, and contrasts his career with that of Russell. 

Another cool interview comes by way of the 8-min Dignity – Interview with actress Ginger Lynn, the former adult star turned legit Hollywood actress talks about the transition from porn to working on films like Whore, Young Guns Two, and more. She speaks fondly of Theresa Russell who she says she had a great rapport with making the film and describes being yelled at by the director, whom she describes as being "shit-faced", who unhappy with her performance stopped production and proceeded to act out the entire scene to demonstrate how it should be done. 

In the 22-min Raw – Interview with writer Deborah Dalton the screenwriter touches on the director's intent, various rewrites on the script, and the scrapped original finale. There's also a  22-min appreciation by adult film auteur Provocateur – X-rated auteur Bruce La Bruce on Ken Russell’s Whore who offers his own candid assessment of the film and of Russell's career, and admitting he may have consciously or subconsciously borrowed elements of this film in his own work, notably Hustler White (1996), which shares a common language, and pointing out the surreal isolated downtown L.A. locations, and noting which areas were frequented by gay and straight prostitutes. 

The last of the new extras is the 28-min Legitimate and Illegitimate Women in  Ken Russell’s Whore – video essay by author/critic Kat Ellinger, the noted author and film scholar starting things off by putting the film into context against courtesan literature, the way the critics and audiences responded to the film, and plenty more. The disc is buttoned-up with a 1-min Theatrical Trailer for the film. The single-disc release arrives in a sturdy oversized clear keepcase with a two-sided, non-reversible sleeve of artwork. The first 1500 copies also come with a Limited Edition Slipcase (first-pressing only) with it's own unique artwork, both looking to be original movie poster designs. 

Special Features:
- NEW! Audio Commentary by film critics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas & Josh Nelson
- NEW! Artist – interview with actress Theresa Russell (13 min) 
- NEW! Dignity – interview with actress Ginger Lynn (8 min) 
- NEW! Raw – interview with writer Deborah Dalton (22 min) 
- NEW! Provocateur – X-Rated auteur Bruce La Bruce on Ken Russell’s Whore (22 min) 
- NEW! Legitimate and Illegitimate Women in  Ken Russell’s Whore – video essay by author/critic Kat Ellinger (28 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (1 min) 
- Limited Edition slipcase on the first 1500 copies with unique artwork

Whore (1991) is a wonderfully vulgar and uniquely executed slice of voyeuristic cinema that gives a disturbingly intimate fly-on-the-wall portrait of the seedy life of a sex worker. Theresa Russell absolutely dominates the film and gives a strangely charming turn as the jaded non-nonsense prostitute who encounters all manner of violent perverts and scuzzy street urchins while trying to turn a buck. This is the first time that Ken Russell's film has been available in widescreen HD and Imprint Films do it up right with a proper special edition with a fantastic set of extras and attractive packaging that should make this a highly desirable release. 

Screenshots from Imprint Films Blu-ray: 
































































Extras: 





































No comments:

Post a Comment